Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was acquitted on Thursday of allegedly bribing a witness in a 2013 underage prostitution case. Berlusconi had been accused of paying pianist Danilo Mariani to lie in a trial.
In the original trial, Berlusconi – leader of the centre-right Forza Italia party – was acquitted. He also pleaded not guilty in the subsequent bribery trial.
Karima El Mahroug was the centre of the under-age prostitute case from which this case stemmed.
“I spoke to Berlusconi a little while ago and he is very relieved and satisfied,” said his lawyer Federico Cecconi after the verdict was issued by the court in the Tuscan city of Siena.
However, Berlusconi still faces two other similar cases of alleged bribery. These are being tried by courts in Rome and Milan.
Mariani was sentenced in May to two years in prison by the Siena court for lying at the original trial. Then he said Berlusconi’s physical contact with his female guests was just to shake their hands. On Thursday he was also acquitted; his accusation was for taking bribes.
The alleged payments to various witnesses are being handled in different courts around the country according to the location of the banks that received the money.
Berlusconi was originally found guilty of paying to have sex with El Mahroug in 2013. Aged 17 at the time, she was considered a minor by Italian law. Berlusconi was sentenced to seven years in jail.
However, the verdict was overturned in 2014 by an appeals court which ruled there was no proof he had known Mahroug’s age. The acquittal was upheld by the Supreme Court.
Berlusconi’s ill health
The various trials have been suspended several times in the last year due to the failing health of Berlusconi. He has been in and out of hospital repeatedly after contracting COVID-19 in September 2020.
However, his condition has appeared to improve. On Thursday he flew to Brussels for a meeting of European centre-right leaders.